The 2-1 loss to India, a day later, still has most of Australia in a tizzy wondering how exactly they conceded a home series to not even a full-strength Indian side. Through the four-Test series, India were without their regular captain Virat Kohli, they were hit by injuries in every single Test, played as many as 20 players from their squad as a result and had to eventually make do with handing their net bowlers an Indian cap. Yet, a full-strength Australia fell well short of the required markers, after even having the toss advantages, only to have India outplaying them in every facet since the Adelaide disaster of being all out for 36.
“I’m quite shocked that Australia weren’t quite good enough to win this series,” Ponting told the Cricket Australia website on Wednesday (January 20). “Considering everything the Indian cricket team has been through in the last five or six weeks, with the captain leaving, all the injuries they’ve had – they’ve been through 20 players – (Australia) have been at full-strength all bar Davey (Warner) missing early on, so it’s really hard to comprehend.
“But having been there you can see how it’s happened, because (of) how resilient they’ve been. They’ve played really good, tough, hard Test match cricket day-in and day-out and won all the big key moments through the series. That’s been the difference between the two teams; India have won all the big moments in every Test match and Australia have fallen short.”
Australia put up a poor show in Melbourne to slip to an eight-wicket loss. They bounced back in Sydney to take control of the Test until they were undone by the pair of R Ashwin and Hanuma Vihari, who battled hard to pull off a resilient draw on the final day. In Brisbane, after being in control for most of the game, the unlikely heroes for India were Washington Sundar and Shardul Thakur – not with the ball, but with the bat – after India were on the mat at 186 for 6, to turn the game around with a 123-run stand en route respective fifties that left Australia with a meagre lead. That, after the pair returned three wickets apiece in the first innings.
“Washington Sundar looked like he had played 50 Test matches through the course of this game and never looked out of place,” Ponting said. “Shardul Thakur was the same in his second Test match, picked up seven wickets and scored 60-odd handy runs in the first innings. I’ve been around the IPL a long time so I know the talent that they do have in India, but when you’ve got to step up on a big stage in a Test match against Australia it’s a different story. But they’ve done it, they’ve done it really well and they thoroughly deserve to win the series.
“The cold hard facts of it are pretty much that was the India A team that played this Test match and (India) still won. That’s a real concern for Australia. I think we gave Australia the benefit of the doubt the last time India were out here because Warner and (Steve) Smith weren’t there. But this time, Australia’s at full strength and India are on the bones of their squad – they’re playing net bowlers in Test matches and they’re still winning. That’s the worry for Australia.
“It’s probably not even (India’s) second-picked team because you think of Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Ishant Sharma and those guys who didn’t even make it out here. Rohit Sharma turns up for the last two Test matches only. We’re probably digging deeper than even an Indian A team and they’ve still been good enough to win two Test matches here in Australia, and good enough to win one in Brisbane, which just doesn’t happen. You can’t take anything away from them, they’ve been awesome.”
The tour of South Africa for three Tests is Australia’s next assignment, beginning February 14. Ponting doesn’t want the loss to India to overtly cause a flutter in the Australian camp.
“Coming into the series they were the No.1-ranked Test team in the world,” Ponting said. “They’ve been doing a lot of things right. There’s no need for any panic but they’ve got to find a way to play better cricket. I can’t see how any personnel change to that side is going to change much.
“I’m sure it’s a pretty bitter pill to swallow for Justin (Langer, Australia coach) and the boys, to dominate Sydney like they did and not win and be in control of Brisbane for the majority of the game and then lose, I reckon it’s going to sting, this one. There might be some talk about Matthew Wade but every other base I think they’ve got the best players in those positions, it’s just about those guys playing better. I’m sure that will happen. I think we’ll see a pretty quick response from this bunch of players.
“They go to South Africa next, it’s never easy over there but you’ve got to respond – that’s what good teams do. And if they want to be the No.1 team in the world then they’re going to have to bounce back pretty quickly,” he added.